The granting of a United States visa is an important responsibility because no matter how short the period of the visa, aliens often remain here, even after their visas have expired. For this reason, all individuals applying for visas are presumed to be immigrants and ineligible for a visa unless they can persuade the Consular Officer and the immigration inspector that they do not intend to remain in the United States. When Khalil applied for a visa that would allow him to transit through the United States to Ecuador, he provided no corroboration of his ties to his country of origin, with the exception of his representation that he owned a farm or part of a farm in Israel. The Consular Officer did not require proof that Khalil had such an ownership interest, that he had sufficient funds to support himself in the United States or Ecuador, that he had relatives in Israel or Ecuador, or that he had a ticket to Ecuador.
The Consular Officer also did not consider the "transit without visa" program for Khalil because, according to her, Palestinians without a visa would not be able to depart from, or even reach the airport in Israel. Even if this is true, Khalil traveled from Jordan to the United States and may have been able to use the transit without visa program from Jordan, without having to apply for and qualify for a U.S. visa.
Once Khalil arrived in the United States, the immigration inspector at JFK Airport who admitted him mistakenly thought he had a B-2 visa, allowing Khalil to remain in the United States for 6 months, rather than a C-1 transit visa, which would allow Khalil to remain here for up to 29 days. Either visa, however, would have admitted Khalil into the United States and allowed him the same opportunity to remain after the visa expired, which he did. We have no way of determining whether the immigration inspector's error is a common one. But we found no indication that the inspector acted out of anything other than a mistake.
Our interviews of the inspector who admitted Khalil, his supervisors, and INS officials suggest disagreement about what immigration inspectors are expected to require when the holder of a C-1 transit visa arrives at a U.S. airport, and whether the inspector should attempt to determine the alien's admissibility or simply accept the Consular Official's decision to issue the visa. The immigration inspector in this case believed his job was to examine whether Khalil's visa looked legitimate. The inspector did not believe he was required to ascertain whether Khalil had a ticket or the means to continue to his ultimate destination. His supervisors thought the immigration inspector should do this. The immigration inspector did not think that he should limit the period of stay for a C-1 visa holder to less than the maximum of 29 days absent a specific notation on the visa from the Consular Officer; the Consular Officer who issued the visa thought it was the inspector's job to do that. The law and INS regulations state that immigration inspectors are responsible for determining not only whether to admit an alien, but also for how long.
A number of INS officials also expressed doubts about whether the typical passenger seeking to transit through the United States on the way to another country should be given a C-1 transit visa. These officials were unable to understand the logic of a visa category that is intended for aliens in "immediate and continuous transit" through the United States, yet regularly results in authorization for them to remain in the United States for up to 29 days. They noted that even if the immigration inspector restricts the C-1 alien's stay to a few days, the INS lacks the resources to find and deport these individuals if they remain in the United States after their visas have expired. Moreover, if the purpose of the traveller's trip to the United States is merely to catch a flight to another country, as Khalil claimed, the "transit without visa" program could allow this without permitting the alien to enter the United States. We believe that this program should be more carefully considered for travellers, like Khalil, who only want to transit to another country through the United States.
In sum, in Khalil's case, we found no intentional misconduct by any official, but we
did find confusion about various officials' roles in the visa process. Neither the
Consular Officer nor the immigration inspector thought it was his or her responsibility to
seek proof that Khalil had an airline ticket to fly to Ecuador, to ask for evidence of
sufficient funds for the trip or for his stay in the United States, or to restrict the
period of stay in the United States to less than 29 days, even though Khalil allegedly
only wanted to catch a flight to Ecuador. We believe that the disagreement and
misunderstanding over the appropriate role of each official should be promptly addressed
by the INS and the State Department.
|Date: March 24, 1998||Michael R. Bromwich
Glenn A. Fine
Stephen H. Fallowfield
Other Principal Contributors
CHRONOLOGY OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
IN THE IMMIGRATION CASE OF GAZI IBRAHIM ABU MEZER
October 2, 1973 -- Mezer is born in Hebron, on the West Bank of Israel.
July 6, 1993 -- Mezer obtains a one-year travel document from the Israeli government.
September 10, 1993 -- The Canadian Embassy in Israel grants Mezer a student visa for entry to Canada, valid until April 3, 1994.
September 14, 1993 -- Mezer is admitted to Canada based on his student visa.
September 23, 1993 -- Mezer applies at the U.S. Consular Office in Toronto for a nonimmigrant visa to the United States, but his request is denied.
November 12, 1993 -- Mezer applies for convention refugee status (political asylum) in Canada.
October, 1994 -- Mezer receives a sentence of one-year unsupervised probation for a conviction for using a stolen credit card in Canada.
May 10, 1995 -- Mezer receives a conditional discharge and one-year probation for a simple assault conviction in Toronto.
February, 1996 -- The Royal Canadian Mounted Police report Mezer and another individual engaging in "suspicious activity" in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mezer is not arrested.
June 23, 1996 -- The National Park Service (NPS) apprehends Mezer and Jamal Abed attempting to enter the United States illegally at Ross Lake, in Washington state.
June 24, 1996 -- Border Patrol Agent Hatton voluntarily returns Mezer and Abed to Canada.
June 29, 1996 -- Border Patrol Agent Clark apprehends Mezer as he attempts to illegally enter the United States at Peace Arch Park, a port of entry 65 land miles west of Ross Lake. Mezer is voluntarily returned to Canada.
January 14, 1997 -- Border Patrol Agent Essing arrests Mezer along with Firas Taleb Mohammad and Mohammad Khalil in Bellingham, Washington, as they are boarding a bus for Seattle. Essing charges all three with entering the United States without inspection and begins deportation proceedings against them.
January 15, 1997 -- The Border Patrol sets Mezer's bond at $15,000, and the other two aliens' bonds at $10,000. All three are detained.
January 27, 1997 -- At the first immigration court's first "Master Calendar Hearing" to determine the status of Mezer's case, Mezer admits to entering the United States illegally and to deportability, but he states that he is afraid to return to Israel. The court issues a deportation order to return Mezer to Canada, with the understanding that if Canada refuses to accept him, the INS can reopen the case and Mezer can file a political asylum application. Later that day, Canada refuses to accept Mezer back and the INS reopens the case.
February 6, 1997 -- At a status hearing, Mezer indicates his desire to apply for political asylum and requests a reduction in his $15,000 bond. The INS argues for retention of the bond. The immigration judge, Judge Ho, reduces Mezer's bond to $5,000.
February 14, 1997 -- Mezer's friend posts his $5,000 bond with money from Mezer's uncle in Saudi Arabia. Mezer is released.
April 7, 1997 -- Mezer provides the INS and the immigration court with his asylum application, which alleges that the Israeli government persecuted him based on his alleged membership in Hamas. Mezer denies in the application that he was a member of Hamas. The court schedules Mezer's asylum hearing for January 20, 1998.
April 8, 1997 -- The court sends Mezer's asylum application to the Department of State for comment.
April 16, 1997 -- The court administrator reschedules Mezer's asylum hearing for June 23, 1997, and reassigns the case to Judge Kendall Warren.
April 1997 -- Mezer's attorney informs him of the new hearing date and indicates her concern that Mezer's asylum application could be deemed frivolous because Mezer had already received asylum in Canada.
April 24, 1997 -- The State Department returns Mezer's application to the immigration court with a sticker stating that the State Department did not have factual information about Mezer and would not be making specific comments on his asylum application.
June 11, 1997 -- Mezer telephones his attorney and states that another attorney agrees that Mezer will not win his asylum claim. Mezer tells his attorney that he is going to Canada and authorizes her to withdraw his asylum application.
June 12, 1997 -- Mezer's attorney files a "Notice of Withdrawal of Asylum Application" with the court, on the grounds that Mezer intended to leave the United States prior to his June 23 hearing.
June 14, 1997 -- Mezer telephones his attorney and tells her that he is in Canada.
June 23, 1997 -- At the June 23 hearing, Mezer's attorney informs the court that Mezer said he was in Canada. The parties agree that a final order of deportation will take effect in 60 days.
July 31, 1997 -- Police from the New York City Police Department raid Mezer's Brooklyn apartment, arrest him and Lafi Khalil, and seize bombs in the apartment.
August 20, 1997 -- Mezer and Khalil are indicted and charged with four criminal counts,
including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to use and to
carry a firearm (a pipe bomb) in a crime of violence. Trial is scheduled for June 15,
CHRONOLOGY OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
IN THE IMMIGRATION CASE OF LAFI KHALIL
October 24, 1974 -- Khalil is born in Ajoul, Ramallah, on the West Bank of Israel.
June 26, 1995 -- Khalil obtains a Jordanian passport in Amman, Jordan, which is valid for two years.
November 14, 1996 -- Khalil obtains an Ecuadorean visa.
November 25, 1996 -- At the U.S. Consular Office in Jerusalem, Israel, Khalil applies for a U.S. visa to enable him to travel through the United States to Ecuador. The Consular Officer grants Khalil a C-1 "transit visa", entitling him to enter the United States for a reasonable period of time, up to 29 days, during his travel to Ecuador.
December 6, 1996 -- Khalil travels on KLM airlines from Amman, Jordan to Amsterdam, Holland, where he boards a connecting flight to New York's JFK Airport.
December 7, 1996 -- Khalil arrives at JFK Airport and presents his C-1 transit visa to the immigration inspector. The inspector mistakes Khalil's visa for a B-2 tourist visa, and admits Khalil to the United States with a B-2 visa for six months. Khalil takes a flight to Syracuse, New York.
June 5, 1997 -- Khalil's B-2 visa expires.
July 31, 1997 -- Police from the New York City Police Department raid Khalil and Mezer's Brooklyn apartment, arrest them, and seize bombs from the apartment.
August 20, 1997 -- Khalil and Mezer are indicted and charged with four criminal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to use and to carry a firearm (a pipe bomb) in a crime of violence. Trial is scheduled for June 15, 1998.